Knowledge Centre:
News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

Thinking straight about sustainabilityND

Marc Epstein, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2010

CSR has been used as a term to describe company operations yet it has not been an input into managing company operations. The term Sustainability has been increasing in usage and is an important modification because it acknowledges the long-term impact of business decisions. Many decisions that impact sustainability are made in business units closest to the action rather than at corporate office level. Yet measurement of performance does not acknowledge these features of local business unit roles. There could quite possibly be short costs but these are always paid off by long-term improvements. This makes it difficult to measure the impact of social and environmental performance. Things such as hazardous waste are easy to quantify, others such as employee satisfaction are harder to quantify. For more information see

A truer picture of China’s export machineND

John Horn, McKinsey Quarterly, September 2010

The question most businesses are asking is whether China is becoming more domestically orientated. Businesses entering China could find greater opportunities for profit if this is the case, and all signs point to this occurring. Many of China’s imports are used domestically by businesses and not all of the raw materials are used for export materials. The analysis undertaken suggests that exports have been an important driver of Chinese growth yet not the dominant one. Companies operating export businesses from China may need to ask the question of domestic distribution. It is suggested that a greater share of exports will consist of higher priced goods to compete with those in the developed markets. For more information see

Big business mattersND

Judith Samuelson, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 30 September 2010

While the general public is distrustful and cynical about business, the reality is that big business is the most capable agent for solving important problems. While social enterprises are usually lacking in capital, big business can be reorganised with social entrepreneurship’s best features. Firstly, business purpose and public good should be aligned with business strategy. Second, social Intrapreneurs need to be encouraged. These are change agents working in businesses to find opportunities in any task. Thirdly, business ethical values need to be placed at the core of business education. For more information see

Boosting the productivity of knowledge workersND

Eric Matson and Laurence Prusak, McKinsey Quarterly, September 2010

A major opportunity for companies comes from raising the productivity of workers whose jobs primarily consist of decisions based on knowledge. Knowledge work cannot be automated and streamlined and performance metrics are not easily available. This is why so many companies settle on scattershot investments in many differing areas in the hope of improving productivity. Yet since the majority of knowledge work is conducted through interactions a good effort should start with this in mind. Many barriers exist that limit interactions, such as social and cultural barriers. For more information see

China’s rich split on philanthropyND

Laurie Burkitt, Wall Street Journal, 28 September 2010

Recent visits by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to China have opened up a debate regarding Chinese philanthropy. Many wealthy Chinese have questioned the logic of creating large foundations in a country already burdened by so much red tape. Until very recently philanthropy was not discussed openly since the delivery of social services is a government responsibility. Some business tycoons are wary of setting foundations for fear of flouting their fortunes. In China, one-off donations are increasingly common, but sustainable philanthropic efforts have suffered due to the lack of a regulatory framework and public awareness. For more information see

Vietnam economy: Reform roll-back?ND

Economist Intelligence Unit, 21 September 2010

New government measures in Vietnam will allow governments to force pricing rules on domestic and foreign businesses alike. Even with possibility of legal action by the World Trade Organisation, the government is pushing ahead. Intervention will be used in cases where the price movements are determined to be ‘abnormal’. These new measures have been justified on the basis of rising inflation in the Vietnamese economy, and could require companies to hand over details of pricing structures and costs of component details. For more information see

Big names see which way the wind is blowingND

Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 15 September 2010

It is expected that sustainability will increase in importance in the future. Many companies who decide to ‘go green’ find that innovations in business practice increase after such decisions. In many cases businesses are responding to external pressures. There is an increase of government regulation, pressure from civil groups and even investors demanding higher green standards. While many companies are still facing consequences of the financial crisis, they seem to have decreased the promotion of their initiatives. Yet this does not indicate that these initiatives have been reduced. This evidence of growing involvement from big companies in green innovation defies those who predicted that the recession would put an end to environmental initiatives. For more information see

Not every blog has its day ND

Lia Timson, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 2010

Despite an increase in the use of social media tools in the workplace, companies are discovering that simply introducing social software is not enough to keep their employees engaged. Companies that have enjoyed success from social software do so through actively managing it, including training, monitoring user activity behaviour and making constant adjustments. It is suggested that for collaboration tools to be effective, they must be ‘intuitive, work in short bursts and have a robust databank that is easy to search’. For more information see

Speaking up for your business on Microblog in ChinaND

Jonna Chou,CSR Asia, 8 September 2010

Businesses operating in Asia are flocking to the newest sensation, Microblogs, to promote themselves. Microblog offers greater communication and better transparency, with ‘followers’ able to comment and spread a company image. Microblogs can be a powerful communication tool for business to create a responsible image when employed well. However, it is a double-edged sword that can also create enormous damage to the corporate image if the risks are not managed well. As with any other social media site, companies must follow the most popular methods but be aware of the limitations of the software/sites. For more information see

China and the secret code: Foreign companies face new rulesND

Knowledge@ASB, 7 September 2010

New Chinese regulations now require all software and equipment sold to government agencies to be certified by government linked labs. The testing involves handing over encryption codes and intellectual property. The risks of complying with Beijing's new rules would be considerable since for many companies the only advantage they have is their intellectual property. On the other hand, China is too big a market to leave behind and companies could be forced to comply for the sake of gaining market share. Critics have concluded that these measures have created a hostile environment for foreign companies operating in these sectors. For more information see

Crowd sourcing: Is your next big idea just a mouse click away?ND

Knowledge@ASB, 07 September 2010

The corporate sector is moving towards crowds of public individuals with the expectation that one person alone will not solve a problem but more people will generate more ideas. At the most basic level, companies are leveraging their mainstream social media presences on sites such as Twitter. Many businesses have too much to do and not enough people to do the work. Organisations that are using this technique vary from government organisations (such as Tourism Australia) to banks firms (such as NAB). In addition, the problems that the crowds are tackling are getting broader in scope but help comes from a broad network including small and medium enterprises, single inventors as well as university groups and suppliers. For more information see

Singapore’s stock exchange announces sustainability reporting policy and guidelinesND

Erin Lyon, CSR Asia, 1 September 2010

Companies listed on the Singapore stock exchange (SGX) could face newly introduced regulation on sustainability reporting. The sustainability report could be used to supplement financial reports presented by the companies. This has been developed because companies in Singapore are ranked low on sustainability disclosure as compared to other Asian countries. Since sustainability is considered a key issue for investors, then the exchange sees that it is necessary to disclose such information to the market. Guidelines and information booklets are being prepared to assist companies with disclosure. For more information see

Help countsND

Jeanne-Vida Douglas, BRW, 26 August 2010

Many employees of large organisations are volunteering their time for community projects. These programs vary from educational to charity. Organisations are now realising that financial and non-financial contributions can be made an ongoing part of business activities. On the other hand, charitable organisations value the non-monetary contributions of skilled staff. Employees gain a sense of achievement and contribute in a positive way towards advancing a more sustainable society. For more information see

Energy efficiency—The case for Malysian BusinessesND

Sharmel Ali,CSR Asia, 25 August 2010

In Malaysia, the rapid economic growth has caused some challenges for businesses to deal with; most notable is energy usage and its associated environmental costs. As well as government regulation specifying efficient energy usage, businesses should be proactive and innovative to improve their environmental credentials. Additionally, businesses can improve their bottom line by saving energy costs and maintenance costs. An organisation-wide awareness of energy efficiency will improve the company’s reputation among employees and customers as well. For more information see

How China’s workforce woes become a matter of life or deathND

Knowledge@ASB, 24 August 2010

The darker side of China’s rise as an economic power is about low wages and poor working conditions. Many issues arise in firms that adopt Taylorist management perspectives, with high monitoring of work and strict discipline. There needs to be a focus on improving labour relations and better human resource departments for dealing with employee demands. For more information see

Time to work on the jobs of the futureND

Luke Johnson, Financial Times, 24 August 2010

Many jobs are being outsourced to lower cost economies, less labour is required in manufacturing processes and wages in industrialised nations are increasing due to regulation. This environment requires serious thinking by corporate businesses about potential growth areas for employment. New positions, at least in the private sector, are only created by optimism and potential growth industries. Government regulation and tax breaks to induce job creation are important, as well as banking laws which promote lending to small businesses. It is important for industrialised nations to combine intellectual resources and direct their collective energy towards new positions that reflect their competitive advantage. For more information see

Employee engagement: are more firms listening to their staff, or are they just paying lip service?ND

Ruth Sunderland, Guardian, 22 August 2010

Employee engagement has medium to long term impacts on company performance. Many firms are making efforts to engage, yet there seems to be a widening gap between policy and practice. The most popular way to communicate with staff remains through a company newsletter or intranet. Different sectors also report and engage with their employees on different matters. For example, it is common for mining companies to report health and safety data. But having procedures for engagement is not the same as a genuine culture of engagement within the organisation. For more information see

In case of emergency: what not to doND

Peter Goodman, The New York Times, 21 August 2010

Very recently major organisations previously known for their reputations have come under fire for incidents that have become high profile failures. Many companies have exacerbated their positions by either failing to admit wrongdoing or deflecting the blame onto other parties. Companies that handle crises well are rarely heard of until published in a case study, while companies that fail at crisis management get published in media outlets. Many incidents end in squandered goodwill and it generally takes a long time to rebuild the goodwill. For more information see

China’s in-store warsND

Max Magni and Yuval Atsom, Harvard Business Review, 20 August 2010

Recent surveys have revealed that 45 per cent of Chinese consumers make purchase decisions inside stores, as compared to 24 per cent in the US. Companies are hence devising ways of drawing in consumers at the point of sale. Four main techniques are highlighted; prioritising retail outlets, offering incentives for shelf space, offering consistent retail experiences and using large numbers of in-store promoters. For more information see

Coca-Cola on the Yangtze: a corporate campaign for clean water in ChinaND

Knowledge @ Wharton, 18 August 2010

Coca-Cola has began working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to improve the water quality in China’s Yangtze river, which has been noted by WWF to be at the top of the list of the 10 most threatened rivers in the world. The partnership involves projects such as working with rural farmers to turn animal waste into biogas, instead of allowing it to enter the river, as well as community education projects on environmental issues for rural farmers. While the partnership between Coca-Cola and WWF has been criticised by some, ultimately WWF recognises the value of the partnership in promoting community awareness as well as providing tangible support. The partnership also assists Coca-Cola to build its image and credibility in China, which will be beneficial in allowing Coca-Cola to expand its operations. For more information see

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